(Re)introducing Chen Jia Kai

After all these years, Chen finally found his true calling

After all these years, Chen finally found his true calling


He was described as the next big thing when he made his debut five years ago with a little record called Fei Xing 943 (Flight 943).

Fans and critics were raving about his strong, explosive voice and before long, he was undergoing training in Taiwan, in preparation to spread his wings in the biggest hub of Mandopop.

He had everything going for him. It looked like it was only a matter of time before he became the next Malaysian musical export like Michael Wong and Fish Leong.

His fans and the local media were placing high hopes on him until he hit the stop button suddenly and announced that he was quitting singing.

We are talking about Chen Jia Kai (a.k.a JK), who famously gave up his budding singing career in exchange for a chance to finish his studies.

Five years later, he is back.

The lad cut a new album Na Han (Shout) in December to great response from fans - and critics - when the title single earned a nomination for Best Local Chinese Song at the 17th Anugerah Industri Muzik (AIM).

For the past few months, he had been busy touring the country. When DailyChilli.com spoke to him, he had just recovered from a cold (“Blame it on the weather,” he said), which had resulted in him canceling one of his shows.

This soft-spoken lad from Alor Setar was described as a man of few words in many interviews, but in this latest one, he shared quite a fair bit.

He revealed that his label Rock Records plans to market his music to Taiwan in the second half of the year. He shared about what he likes and hates about himself and even denied that he had snubbed one of the most important awards in the local Chinese scene, Malaysia PWH Music Award, as reported.

What have you been busy doing lately apart from promoting your album?

I’ve been doing showcases here and there and I’ve been writing.

How many new songs have you written so far?

Around 20, I think – some are just snippets – and the list will have to be narrowed down for selection for the next album.

 Why did you decide to become a singer again?

I’ve completed my studies and after working for a while, I am finally sure that this is what I want to do.

How do you feel about returning to the music scene?

You feel familiar yet there are things that are foreign to you. It is a familiar feeling to be back on the stage, meeting friends from the press whom I used to meet five years ago. However, the environment is definitely different now. If you asked me, we have more singers these days and they come in all varieties.

 How have you changed compared to five years ago, musically and personally?

The obvious thing is that I’m now older [laughs]. I was still a student when I first joined the scene. Today I’m a full-time singer. So definitely it feels not the same.

Well, would you give up singing again like you did last time?

Now that I’d signed a five-year contract with Rock Records, I will not run away this time [laughs].

Congratulations on the AIM nomination. How do you feel and what is the first thing you would do if you win?

It’s already a form of recognition to be nominated [laughs sheepishly]. If I indeed win, I would… write more songs.

Let us rewind a bit: do you still remember the very first songs that tickled your fancy and ignited that passion for music in you?

My first cassette was Emil Chau’s WoYuanYi QuDeng. I listened to a lot of Emil, Jeremy Zhang, Chyi Chin and Bobby Chen when I was young. Then later I included Wu Bai.  I used to like a song based on who the singer is, but now it’s all about the songs. These days I listen to the radio and surf the Net a lot for new materials. I will go to those forums and find out what’s good. I try listening to mainstream as well as non-mainstream stuff.

 So have you come across any good music?

I recently found out about (American indie rock band) Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I think they are pretty cool.

 Describe the importance of music to you.

It has always been a part of me for so long. It is a way for me to express my emotions. Some people do it through jotting it down in a diary. I do it through making music.

 Will you keep on writing songs if you are no longer a singer?

Most probably I will. It has become a habit for me.

 What is your dream record like?

I hope it will be all about my compositions. And I hope that it turns out to be something that you can’t define by genre.

 Is Na Han close to that?

I think when it comes to songwriting, I’m still working on that. I hope I can come up with something that can be appreciated by everyone.

 We read that you refused to accept your awards at the 2004 Malaysia PWH Music Award...

I bought tickets to attend the award to demonstrate my support, but I had just announced that I’d quit singing then. So I think it’s inappropriate for me to accept the award. As I was hesitating, the moment was over [laughs].

 Lastly, tell us what do you like and hate about yourself.

I hate that I’m hesitant and always thinking too much. I’m slow in doing things and always end up delaying the things that I really want to do, but I like that I am genuine to people.

Published March 30 2010 


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